Carolee Schneemann was a feminist American artist who presented herself in the art-world in many forms: as a painter, in performance, photography, installation and more.
Even though her artwork was presented in many styles; the message and themes stayed consistent: she relayed on social taboos, gender politics, being openly provocative and exposing everyday erotica. One of her most acknowledged pieces was performed in Paris “Meat Joy” (1964) and it was meant to confront cultural stricture of the time. It was a concept of Kinetic Theater where performers, including the artist herself, half-naked, covered their exposed bodies with paint and paper while playing with raw meats and fish in an orgiastic reverie.
She also participated along with performance artist and sculptor Robert Morris in “Site” (1964). Morris dressed in all white with a mask covering his face, started by directly approaching large white plywood boards. Throughout the piece, he starts manoeuvring them while unveiling Schneemann laying openly in the nude in a position emulating Édouard Manet’s Olympia (1863). Morris continues, unfazed by her presence as if she is invisible, and Schneemann lays powerfully still yet present.
A very raw concept of the body presented as cinematic artwork is her film “Fuses” (1967) created together with her boyfriend, the composter James Tenney. Significantly, Schneemann conceives the film as shot through the eyes of her cat – the impassive observer whose view of human sexuality is free of voyeurism and ignorant of morality. Much as human beings carry the physical traces of their experiences, so this film testifies to what it has been through and communicates the spirit of its maker. A devastatingly erotic work, transcending the surfaces of sex to communicate its true spirit, its meaning as an activity for herself and, quite accurately, women in general.